By Sharron Duncan
WASHINGTON – While Metro-system riders have become more concerned about the safety of riding the aging rail system since last June’s deadly crash, another danger lurks. They also must worry about the trouble they could encounter just by possessing valuable items, such as an iPod or a cell phone.
An analysis of Metro Transit crime statistics shows thefts are on the rise in the Washington region’s busy public transportation system.
Over the course of a five-year period, all Metro crimes, except robbery and larceny, experienced a rollercoaster experience — down one year, up the next and then down again.
But each year, robbery and larceny have ranked higher than any other Metro crime and the number of thefts has steadily increased.
In 2005, 349 people were robbery victims. By 2009, the number of robberies increased to 894, the statistics show. In 2005, 556 people were victims to larceny. In 2009, the number increased to 811.
That trend has continued, as a February-to-February comparison shows.
Ninety-eight people were victim to metro crimes in February 2009. Out of those 98 people, 37 were victim to robberies and 38 to larcenies – 77 percent of all crimes in that month. Year-to-date, 74 percent of the crimes were robbery and larceny.
In February 2010, 123 people were victim to metro crime. Of those 123 people, 81 were victim to robbery and 27 to larceny, together making up 88 percent of all crimes reported in that month. Year to date, 89 percent of the crimes were robbery and larceny.
Robbery and larceny are generally the same offense, but the labeling varies across law enforcement jurisdictions in Metro’s coverage area, which includes Washington, D.C., and suburban Maryland and Virginia.
“I’m always aware of my surroundings on the train ‘cause you never know. People are crazy,” said Tyriq Prince, a 17-year-old resident of Largo, Md.
A significant number of people committing the crimes are in Tyriq’s age group.
In February 2009, the Metro Transit police report said that 44 juveniles were suspected of robbery and one was arrested. In February 2010, 58 juveniles were suspected of robbery and three were arrested.
“I hardly ride the train because of kids. They’re rowdy, and are stealing and robbing people. I don’t feel safe,” says 49-year-old Martin Freeman of Washington, D.C.
Metro Transit police suggest that the best way for passengers to secure their possessions is to not take them out on the ride and to always be aware of their surroundings.
“When a person is on a cell phone, they forget about their surroundings, making it easier for someone to walk up to them, snatch the phone, and run,” said Sgt. Vernon Clayton of the Metro Transit Police Department. “People must keep their guards up at all times. “